Wisdom Choices

Key

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I interviewed an artist about her work and I was curious, so I asked her why she was always so happy. She answered, “I chose Heaven.”

Later, she explained, “When I was very young, I loved my husband and baby very much. It could have been a perfectly joyous time except my Dad was dying of bone cancer. His hospital was two hours away and I visited him nearly every day. It seemed to me that I was always in the wrong place. When I was home, I felt guilty and when I was in the hospital, I felt I was cheating my baby. I felt like I was always bouncing between Heaven and Hell.”

“So how did you solve it?” I asked.

She answered, “Someone taught me the Serenity Prayer. I understood there wasn’t much I could control. My baby was fine and my Dad was dying, no matter what I did. My only choice was my emotional response. I could choose misery or happiness. When I finally understood that – I chose Heaven.”

By the time she shared her wisdom with me, her dad was long gone, her baby was in college, and she was a well-known artist. She was also a vital, enthusiastic, successful and joyful person.

I asked her the personal question because I wanted what she had. I’d been sober two years but I was broke and, and in a miserable love affair. I’d heard the Serenity Prayer many, many times and, to be honest, I thought it was a cliché until I heard her story. Since then it has become my favorite tool for solving life’s puzzles.

With sobriety, I realized that life would never be perfect. There would always be things I liked and other things I didn’t. The Serenity Prayer helps me navigate difficult choices.

God granted me a great deal after I got sober. I gained new opportunities and wonderful tools to create a sane life. I learned to use the Serenity Prayer and I discovered that I had more choices than I’d believed.

I attracted and built a good writing career, a sensible financial situation, and many excellent friends. Eventually, I gained self-forgiveness and a wonderful relationship with my family.

However, there were things I desperately wanted and didn’t get. I bumped my heart against the true love dream for a long time. We eventually parted company because I couldn’t make him be what I wanted him to be. That wasn’t my only disappointment but it was a biggie.

It is tough to give up the dream even if the reality is only heartache. Like most people, I want what I want when I want it. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I was seldom happy in those early days . Then I discovered Science of Mind and the teachings of Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. When I combined 12 Step wisdom and the Science of Mind teaching, my life kept getting better. I kept getting happier. And happier.

At some point, I decided events didn’t matter as much as I’d thought, because I could always choose my emotional responses. Disappointment didn’t throw me. I stopped being a victim. I could choose to be happy – I could choose Heaven.

No one completely escapes disappointment. No matter how hard we work, or how effectively we visualize good news, sometimes things go in different directions. We don’t get to control everything but we do get to control our reactions.

We can choose to be happy. Life isn’t a tragedy unless we react as though things are tragic. Most people have events happen that are sad and it takes time to get over those rough spots however, the Serenity Prayer can help us heal more swiftly.

For example, losing a job is not good news but it is also not the end of the world. Some people curl up into a ball and refuse to recover from he blow. Others accept it happened and find the courage to move on quickly. They find another job or start their own business.

Very often, something that looks bad turns out to be the push we needed. A divorce leads to true love. An illness leads to better health habits.. A bankruptcy leads to a simpler lifestyle. What looks like loss turns out to be that Staircase to Heaven they sang about in old-fashioned musicals.

Of course, some things really are tragic and it may take time to find the serenity to accept what has happened. The death of a loved one is certainly sad especially when it is unexpected. However, most people survive grief and regain their happy lives.

People with serenity come to understand that death really is a part of life. They release grief as quickly as possible. It does no good to mourn for the rest of your life. It neither brings the loved one back nor helps the others you love if you mourn too deeply.

Accepting life as it comes and making choices about how to react as you go along is a good action plan for living. In 12 Step programs we are advised to live a day at a time and not dwell on the past. I’ve observed that attitude really does help people.

Much of it has to do with emotional maturity and choice. Some of us find the serenity, courage, and wisdom to live one day at a time when they are facing a life-threatening illness. Others are miserable when they break a fingernail.

I believe it is very helpful to remember that nothing is permanent, not even pain. That’s the good news. On the other hand, you will never be able to arrange everything exactly the way you want it and keep it there. How you choose to react is more important that the event itself.

If you don’t believe me, I invite you to try an experiment. Apply the Serenity Prayer to any perplexing or unhappy event in your life. Begin by asking yourself whether you need to find the serenity to accept it or the courage to change it. In other words, begin by seeking wisdom.

Next time something happens in your life that seems like a bad thing, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to make it better. If the answer is yes, be happy and do it. If the answer is no, choose to be happy anyway.

Many people find it surprising or unbelievable to hear that they can control their reactions to life’s events but it is true. It is also an important key to happiness. You can stop believing life makes you a victim and start believing you have the wisdom and power to be a player in the game of life.

Ask Yourself

Am I unhappy about anything today?

Is there anything I can do about it?

How do I choose to feel about my issue?

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Gifts of History

OneworldThe History Fairy gave me three gifts this week, she blessed me with old memories and new insights. Thank God for history and all the people who live, record, and study it.

         My first gift was a woman from Columbia University who is writing her Master’s thesis on the Sunfire series of teenage historical novels. I wrote several in the series. She graduated from Yale and   plans to get her doctorate in American Studies.

It is always a pleasure to hear from fans. When she interviewed me, she told me she loved my books because they were about independent women with interesting work  and I felt as though I had a part in her success. It also reminded me that things can change. When I  wrote those books, Yale didn’t even accept women.

The Sunfires were different from my other teen romances because they were based on actual history. I have always loved historical fiction and I loved researching and writing them. Mine were about a one-room schoolteacher, a Lowell mill girl, a telegraph operator caught the Johnstown flood, a 1930’s movie star, and a young woman during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My favorite was Corey – an escaped slave who walked to Philadelphia freedom. The Sunfire series was a first and Corey was an even bigger first because it pictured a black heroine.

The History Fairy also brought two impersonal gifts. They were TV documentaries on the Freedom Riders  and the Women’s Movement. Both events touched my life personally.

I have had a deep interest in racial equality since I was  fourteen, and attended a teen conference sponsored by the American Friends Society. One of the presenters was a Philadephia Quaker named Bayard Rustin. He spent the war in prison as a conscientious objector and then began a  struggle for equality in the South.

Rustin absolutely fascinated me. He wore denim work shirts and played the guitar even though he was a very educated man. He taught us enthralling protest songs that were as inspiring as his words. I had never met anyone like him and I fell in love because I was a silly young girl, but I also fell even more deeply in love with his message.

I never learned much about him. I know he was with A. Philip Randolph, and organized of the March on Washington. I believe he spent most of his life in the shadows of the movement because of his homosexuality. It is only recently that I’ve seen his name and work openly acknowledged.

As I watched that documentary on the violent confrontations in Alabama and the prison jamming in Mississippi, I realized  how slowly ideas change. I was also reminded how important courage is. Those “agitators” of the early ‘60’s saved the soul of our nation. I believe  those amazing non-violent young people are the true spiritual leaders of our time.

I’ve known for a long time  that poverty is the partner of ignorance and education is the key to change.I have learned that good laws create new opportunity and they do eventually work.  It was wonderful to see that Truth condensed into one TV show. I  realized things have changed for the better. Not finished, but changed.

I was a small contributor to the march toward equality – a few dollars, a few parades. I volunteered for a few social programs, did a few press releases for Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s campaign, volunteered for classroom assignments where I could do some good.Over the last 66 years my ideals have not wavered and I know that foot soldiers  are important to the march of history.

I was very glad so much was caught on tape. Thank God for brave journalists. I was also sad as I remembered how naive we were. In the beginning, we mostly believed racism was limited to the South. Not so. But I believed it then. Didn’t I have friends who were black? I know better now.

The second show reminded me I’ve changed a lot of ideas about women’s issues as well.  I’m ashamed to remember that in the early seventies, I told my  boyfriend I wasn’t a feminist. He was black and he said quietly, “Then you don’t know what’s been done to you.”

I think I resisted jumping on the feminist bandwagon because I wanted to be beautiful and sexy and successful. The propaganda about the women’s movement was ugly and  fierce. I did join NOW almost immediately and I did go to those consciousness raising meetings.

My consciousness may not have been raised as much s startled when the leader suggested my   problems might not all be psychological. She said they were sociological! I was busy  having an identity,or mid-life crisis. At any rate, I chose to be an aging hippie instead of a insistent feminist. It never occurred to me just to be ordinary.

Part of my resistance was that I detested thinking of myself as a victim. However, when I got drunk, I whined a lot. I obviously thought my life was pretty unfair.  Also, I desperately wanted to believe Prince Charming was out there somewhere and would be coming along to save me very soon.

In the end, Prince Charming let me down and I sobered up. With the help of Bill W and Ernest Holmes, I combined my spiritual emergence with attention to my feminine side. Two friends and I wrote a small workbook for women alcoholics. We started the first women’s meeting in town. Getting sober meant looking at my life in new ways.

As American life changed, I also changed. I learned to be grateful for my journey and to enjoy the remainder of the trip.  I thought I was getting smarter as I aged but it may have been that new ideas were exploding all around me and I didn’t want to miss the fun. Who knows?

That was then and this is now. What I know for now, for certain, is that we all very connected. On a clear day, I can see a direct line from Eleanor Roosevelt, my girlhood idol, to Michele Obama who is reinventing First Lady.

We all have a part to play in our march toward discovering our spirital magnificence. When one person finds more Light, it opens us all up to more Light.  The poet, John Donne wrote in the 1600’s. No man is an island… do not ask for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

At age 14, I thought that poem about a bell was all about Gary Cooper blowing up a bridge for love of Ingrid Bergman. Now I know the poem was written for love of all of us. We Are One.

Ask Yourself

What are three  ideas  you changed over the years?

Why did they change?

Did your change impact others? How?


Blue Skies Smiling At Me

scan024I felt a bit down when I wrote my previous  post, so I named it Moody Blues.  In response, several readers sent me cheery notes. Some told me how much they appreciated me. Others told me about themselves and their lives.

I was pleased so many people found the time to send me a personal message. My “downtime” was only a momentary glitch and by the time I’d finished writing, I was all right again. Your notes and calls erased any residual thoughts.

So I thank you. I am truly grateful for all of you readers and for many, many other things in my life. I like to say thank you several times during the day because it keeps me on track. I try to start my day saying thank you and end it the same way. It does keep the blues away.

Expressing gratitude is always a good idea, especially when we are down and want to be up. Certainly, some days are better than others but we really can learn to be happy most of the time.

I learned about expressing gratitude quite a while ago and ever since, even my bad days are much better than my “good” days of the past . I can now laugh out loud about some of the things  I used to believe.

For example, I used to believe that life happened at me. I thought my moods arrived because of events in my life. I now know that I am, to a very great extent, creating my life and my moods are within my control.

New Thought teaches us to look at life in new ways. We learn to release our negativity and turn toward the Light. We know that we can change our thinking and immediately lift our moods. We learn we can be happy when we pay attention to our thoughts and beliefs.

As we learn to be happy, we also learn to view our emotions in new ways. We discover we can control our thinking and lift our emotional state and that it feels exactly like moving from the gloom to the sunshine. Why shiver in darkness?

We also discover that moods don’t just happen, they are caused by triggers and we can usually avoid them. Last week I was happy when I left church but then I was hungry in the supermarket. I was also a bit tired and knew I would be alone at home. All triggers.

Many years ago in my 12 Step Program, I learned the word HALT. I was told that if I wanted to stay sober and be happy, I should not allow myself to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I have found that particular way of taking care of myself very useful.

These days, I can honestly say I love myself the way I am and I am willing to change. So on Moody Blues Sunday, I took care of myself quickly and quietly. I ate something  and took a nap. Then I wrote a blog for my readers who are all friends in my mind. Life was immediately good again. Nothing but blue skies in sight.

Moods are not dark invaders swooping down on us out of nowhere. They are simply old habits of thought that can be changed. They are the result of choices we make when we are not paying attention.

Before we can switch a mood, we have to love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. This is a lifelong lesson for some of us but it is possible.  I remember the first time I tried looking in the mirror and saying, out loud, “I love you Jane.” I burst into tears – but after trying for a while, I got very good at that it. Practice makes perfect.

In the beginning, loving ourselves and taking care of ourselves can be a bit of a struggle. It is easy to work too hard. Easy to put other people’s needs ahead of our own. Easy to attempt to please others and ignore our own desires. None of these patterns is self-loving.

As you deepen your understanding of New Thought and learn that you are created in the image and likeness of God, taking care of yourself because you love yourself gets much easier.

You discover you were created as perfect, whole and complete. You can love yourself now, and you do not have to wait for improvement. How could you possibly improve on God’s handiwork?  Just see yourself as God created you and it is a snap to love yourself.

Learning to love yourself as God loves you is a wonderful adventure. You can start by reading and taking classes. Use your center’s practitioner or minister for counseling if loving yourself  and taking care of yourself seems to be an impossible or very difficult goal. Make your first step asking for help. These ways of thinking will truly change your life.

Ask Yourself

Do I love myself?Do I take good care of myself?

Do I want to release any old behavior?


Laugh Lines

 Who is your favorite comedian? What makes you laugh? Do you have a special friend that you laugh with? When did you last laugh out loud? Do you consciously seek laughter? Why? Why not?

By now, most people in New Thought know that laughter helps you to be happier and healthier. Scientific studies are always extolling the virtues of a good belly laugh. It is excellent exercise for body and spirit. On Sunday, our pastors remind us, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine”.

New Thought encourages a light heart and plenty of laughter in our lives. I am a teacher and student of New Thought with a background in psychology. I have even written some comedy during my long career as a writer. Yet, I don’t laugh every day unless I make it a conscious choice.

On most days, I do my own spiritual practice then I talk and pray with my prayer partner. After that, I work on my writing, pay bills online, play AARP memory games and make phone calls. I might meet a friend for lunch or run some errands. I finish my day by watching the news and a movie or reading a book.

My days are pleasant and I enjoy life it but they tend to focus on helping others and work. Sometimes I forget about how funny life is. Why is it that?

It would be wrong to say nothing funny happened. Truth is, I just need to pay attention. Or make some other choices. Mostly, it’s a matter of choice and habit. We are not stuck in our habits of thought if we think about it a bit.

New Thought is all about learning to think differently. We choose to look on the bright side and that choice does become habitual. That’s what I teach and what I live.

For example, I’ve consciously developed an attitude of gratitude. When I rise in the morning I make my gratitude list and that sets the pattern for my day. Over the years, it has become second nature to look on the bright side of life.

I’ve also quit drinking and smoking and cut down on silly eating. These addictions were triggered by habits of thinking that I erased. I’ve changed my thinking in so many ways, I know I can make laughter a habitual response to life. I can change my thinking and change my life.

A long time ago, when I took a graduate seminar in comedy, I discovered I was very confused about what passed for comedy. My thesis was supposed to answer the question, “Is Kafka Funny?” I said no but it turned out the professor had written a book on Kafka’s comedy. He thought I was wrong and I thought I was right. We did agree that the C minus he gave me wasn’t funny.

I still don’t think it is funny when the hero wakes to discover he’s turned into a bug, which is what happened in Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis. When I read that famous short story, I felt sorry for the poor bug. Cruelty and pain are the edgy part of some comedy and that doesn’t make me laugh.

That’s what happens to me- even in movies. I react with empathy instead of laughter. I just don’t think it’s funny when the fat lady slips on a banana peel. I always hated those cartoons where the rooster got flattened by a hammer and then would spring up again. I looked to me as though that hammer hurt the poor rooster a lot.

But I do love to laugh and I do believe it is good for us. Many years ago when I was in chemotherapy for breast cancer, I decided to choose only “happy, happy, happy” stories and I have stayed with that habit. It is a part of my spiritual practice and it works for me.

My comedy choices avoid ridicule, sarcasm and violence. The old movie Sullivan’s Travels makes a perfect argument for the value of comedy and I agree.  However, the prison and poverty scenes are not funny. I actually preferred the modern take off Oh Brother Where Art Thou. George Clooney and the music are fabulous.

What I like best is surprises. A total surprise is always good for a belly laugh from me. I laughed out loud when my six-year-old nephew poured coke on my friend’s bald spot. I laughed out loud when the hero stepped off the silver screen into real life in Purple Rose of Cairo.

Seinfeld is good on surprises. Cary Grant and Woody Allen have perfect timing when it comes to prat falls and other site gags. I love also a good site gag.

One of my favorite movies in the whole world is The Lady Eve. I like it when Henry Fonda falls over and spills stuff at the formal dinner party. He then changes his clothes and proceeds to fall and change several more times. I have seen the movie at least 25 times and I always laugh out loud at Fonda’s tumbles.

I learned to love screwball comedies from the 30’s and early 40’s during chemotherapy and they are still my best laughter flicks. Others on my best laughs list are My Man Godfrey and Bringing Up Baby.

Whenever anyone is down in the dumps, I suggest, “Bring in the clowns!” Danny Kaye was brilliant for a lot of reasons, including his marvelously responsive face. Lucille Ball’s TV show offers that same flexible reflection to life. She is the world’s best clown. Woody Allen came much later but he’s also a great clown and comedian. Have you seen Hollywood Ending?

The movies aren’t the only laugh triggers but they are easy because you can rent them. It’s more difficult to rent friends. And friends you can laugh with are treasures to be nurtured. I have a couple of friends who are always good for a laugh or two. The ones close to my age are the best. We are now getting to the place where we are so delighted to still be here that we think life is a great, big, wonderful joke.

Real laughing friends are wonderful. Imaginary movie laughter is also great. You can also be your own best friend if you put your mind to the funny things in your journaling. There’s nothing that says a memoir has to be about the struggles you’ve overcome. It can also include the laughter and fun you’ve found.

Your thoughts can be trained to include observations of the funny things are in life. I can make myself laugh out loud right now just by thinking about how things have changed.

My sister and I sometimes talk about our high school algebra teacher. Mr. Baker walked up and down the aisles, shaking his head and saying it was a shame we girls couldn’t just learn to bake biscuits instead of math. He was certain we would soon be married and our husbands would take care of all those nasty bills. I have been widowed twice and self-supporting. My sister has been a widow for many years and successfully manages her estate. Mr. Baker’s opinions always good for a laugh.

Of course life is no joke but laughter is good for us so it’s smart to seek out the light and bright stories in our days. We can decide how and where to send the light of our consciousness.

There are times when a good laugh is the true healing we need most. Our ability to laugh may also help people around us. I thank God that I can look at my own life and see that the laugh is on me.

Ask Yourself

What made you laugh today?

What makes you laugh generally?

What are your favorite comedians?

What friends make you laugh?

Would you like to laugh more?

How might you add laughter to your life?

 


McGovern Made A Difference

 When I sold my 1968 Volkswagon and packed it up for Mexico, my McGovern sticker was clinging to the rear window. The election was quite over but I was reluctant to tear down the dream. It seemed to me that  all hope for world peace was lost. I was wrong.

         Senator George McGovern died last week at the age of 90. He was a great man who opened minds to the possibility of peace in the world. When he lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon, I was discouraged but that was not the end of the story.

McGovern’s honesty and courage continued into next forty years. I thought his passing received less attention than deserved, probably because of the 2012 election news. On the other hand, everyone I heard or read praised him for his vision and  called him a visionary.I also think he was a powerful change agent.

McGovern had strong personal convictions about what was right and wrong. Killing was wrong. Helping people was right. His deep seated notions are still at work in the consciousness of the United States.

Despite our drift into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that US citizens are running out of enthusiasm for war. I believe that Senator McGovern’s life has been instrumental in opening our consciousness to the advantages of keeping the peace.

He was courageous and vision-driven and even more important, he was consistent. McGovern was guided by his spiritual principles and he valued his beliefs more than winning strategies. The opposition painted him as a wild-eyed radical and he lost dramatically. McGovern won 17 electoral votes and Nixon got the other 520.

A recent  New York Times article quoted McGovern as saying, in 2005, “It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”

I realize this is history for most of the people living on the planet today. I write about it because history is important. That campaign is a factor in the image driven current campaign, for instance.

In the late 60’s and early 70”s, the Vietnam War seemed to come out of nowhere. There was a draft then and quite a few young men moved out of the country to avoid going to war. McGovern attracted a large number of young idealists who were anti-war.

There were other issues at risk in the 1972 presidential campaign. McGovern had a consistent liberal record in the Senate. He steadfastly voted for measures that helped the poor, supported civil rights, and championed women. He was for expanding food stamps and head start programs along with other liberal issues.

Not too long after losing that election, I left the country. It’s true that I was very disillusioned with American politics but I was also disillusioned with teaching, relationships, and just about everything else in my life. I’d started drinking again and I needed a place to hide out so I decided on a geographical change.

Oaxaca was a beautiful, old-fashioned state way down south in Mexico. It offered cheaper living, a lovely climate and wonderful folk art. The few Americans who were there were either hippies or snow birds. I was an eccentric age 40. The other expatriates were all their 20’s or 60’s.

I personally learned a lot in Mexico. I learned that I was a total alcoholic and needed to give up the idea that anything outside myself, including a move to a foreign land, could “cure” me. I learned that AA could help me quit drinking. I also learned a great deal about Mexican art and folk art. At some level, I loved Oaxaca and it was good for me.

My years there also taught me what a great country the United States really is. The level of poverty and corruption in Mexico, at that time, was astounding to me. The custom of mordida or bribe was so ingrained that it went unnoticed. When the Watergate scandal hit the US, it simply didn’t seem very important. All politicians were totally crooked. What was all the fuss about?

I almost completely missed Watergate. When USA tourists wanted to tell us about the scandal, we expatriates just yawned.  We were living in Mexico where the police made 90% of their living on bribes and waiters “bought “ their jobs from their bosses so they could garner the tips.

That was then and this is now. My interpretation of how life works underwent an extreme makeover 38 years ago. Since I now see everything in the light of Science of Mind. I know that our lives make a difference and that consciousness creates experience.

I also know that an individual’s consciousness, once stretched, never returns to its original state. When I read that statement by Dr. Raymond Charles Barker, I laughed out loud. It made me think of consciousness as being like a pair of comfortable old shoes.

Sen. George McGovern had a comfortable consciousness and he helped stretched mine. I think he represents the best about this wonderful nation. His honesty, steadfastness, and courage are important to us all. I give him credit for helping us envision a peaceful planet.

Now that I a Religious Science minister, I have participated in many visioning workshops and led many presentations on the unlimited possibility of God. We say it something like this every Sunday because this is our belief system.

God is Unlimited and I am the recipient of God’s Love through spiritual law. I can achieve and receive what I can envision, believe, and accept. God is Divine Givingness and responds automatically to my consciousness.

I know that New Thought and other peaceful religious groups are growing in size and influence. Our national consciousness is changing and McGovern is one impetus for that change. You and I are another impetus. We are making a difference right now.

In church, nearly every Sunday, we sing the Peace. Song. We are diligent about accepting peace into our personal lives. We can also be diligent about accepting peace in our collective spiritual life. We even have a Season For Non-Violence in the late winter. The era of peace is not only possible but inevitable.

George McGovern lived with honor and he continued to speak out about his goals, vision and ideals. He did not let defeat in the 1972 presidential campaign define him. He made a difference in a big way.

He was one of my “wayshowers”.  I have never swayed in my political views about what’s important. I vote for issues, not image. My life plays out on a smaller stage but I know it makes a difference. So does yours.

Thank you, Senator George McGovern. You weren’t a peacenik or hippie, but you were an inspiration. I believe that your ideas were the beginning of major shifts. Thank you for modeling hope and courage.

The ideas of the 60’s morphed into the 70’s and change began to happen. We not only withdrew from Vietnam, we changed the status of minorities and women in this nation. We expanded admission to elite universities, drilled holes in the class system and ushered in a profound interest in Eastern religions.

George McGovern, you were a conservative man. You went to church, cut your hair short, and wore neckties but you spoke your truth in a beautiful way. It was a short skip and jump from you to the Beatles, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Our nation sang about peace and love and it is still singing.

What I know is that Hope continues the journey toward Peace and Love never dies.

Ask Yourself

Whom do you admire?

How does that person make a difference?

What qualities do you admire?

Do you also have those qualities?


Poco A Poco

I got sober in Mexico many years ago. Although, my Spanish was poor, I listened intently to the proffered wisdom from my peers. There was one man with large handlebar mustaches who used to smile broadly and say, “Poco A Poco, nos vamos lejos”. That translates (more or less) as “Little by little, we go a long way.”

         I have repeated that piece of simple wisdom to myself many, many times in the subsequent years. As I began to put my life into shape, I would sometimes despair at how much there was to do. That little saying helped me to achieve my goals. It still helps me.

In New Thought, we believe, as we pray, that instant healing is happening, but many goals take time to achieve. It is good to keep the vision of the completed goal in mind but it is also important to move toward our dreams on a daily basis.

You can’t lose a hundred pounds in a weekend. Nor can you build a financial empire in a day. It usually takes time to change our consciousness enough to get what we want.  In that process of change, it is important to remember that if we give up and stop trying we will not acieve the goal.

We have all had the experience of making a New Year’s resolution and then reverting to our old behavior by Valentine’s Day. That’s when my friend’s expression, “Poco a poco, nos vamos lejos,” comes in handy. Staying the course is the best way to get where we want to go.

Mark Twain has a famous quote about how easy it is to give up smoking and then he says, he knows it is easy because he has given it up so many, many times. That is funny but it is also pathetic. How many times do we let our impatience discourage us?

I am an expert on accomplishing big dreams despite inner and outer obstacles. In my lifetime, I’ve worked my way though college, had successful careers as a teacher, writer and minister. I’ve written over 80 books and many shorter works. I’ve quit drinking, smoking and eating obsessively. None of these things were exactly easy but some were much easier than others.

Once I asked for help and stopped drinking, I was fortunate because I never slipped. I suppose that was an instant healing but I had to change a lot of social habits and patterns of thought to keep from slipping. Nevertheless, I am very grateful it went so well.

Not all people find it that easy. I had a dear friend who went to meetings off and on for fourteen years before he finally got a full year of sobriety under his belt.  When he shared his story with me, he said he was ashamed it took so long and I remember thinking he was one of the most courageous people I’d ever known.

It is difficult to make a goal or resolution and fail but we should never let that be the end of the story. What we need to do is pick up the dream, dust it off, and start again. Little by little, we will discover whatever it is that we need to know in order to get what we want.

I gave up smoking after a truly insane week as the nicotine worked its way out of my system. I do not exaggerate – my physical addiction to cigarettes was very powerful and the craving continued for quite a while. I have never been tempted to smoke again because I never wanted to go through the pain of withdrawal again.

Two healings of addictions went well. On the other hand, it took me myriad attempts to heal compulsive eating. I did manage to lose a hundred pounds but it took many years. I’m still working on losing more. Over those years of diet struggles, I went to Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, and nutrition classes in the local hospital. I failed and failed and failed again.

I continued to pray and struggle. I read several books on dieting. They all had different food plans and ideas and I suppose they all would have worked if I’d stuck with them. Eventually, I decided just to count calories and that worked. Very slowly – but it worked. I’d write my calories in a notebook each day, and total them at the end of the week. The next week, I’d start all over again. Little by little, I went a long way and that was because I never gave up.

Not all goals are so difficult. However, many of our best dreams do require perseverance. You can eventually achieve most of them if you stick with the vision over the long haul. Steadfastness is the key.

One very important thing to remember as you pursue your dreams is that you must do so, one day at a time. It is good to have a big goal in mind, but very, very helpful to cut your goal into small sections. Keeping the dream alive is wonderful and there are pitfalls if you insist on only focusing on the final result.

I have found it is better to pray to stay on my eating plan this day than to tell God to give me a perfect sized  body NOW. If I starve myself for a week and discover I’ve only lost two pounds, I don’t want to fall into despair and start binge eating.

I learned the one day at a time method in 12 step rooms but it works for everything – not just addictive behavior. For example, if you sit down at your desk to write a book and begin by reminding yourself that you have to write at least 50,000 words before it will be finished, you will paralyze yourself before you start. I suggest you aim for a certain number of hours working on the book each day. Or you can set a goal of 1000 words a day. Above all, don’t let lapses in achievement be the reason for quitting.

One thing you can do for yourself that will truly speed up your progress is to pray for your goal on a daily basis. You can also spend some time visualizing how it is going to feel and look when you have arrived at your destination. Systematic prayer and visualization is an important part of any achievement plan.

What are your desired dreams? Do you want to make more friends? Improve your golf score? Get more exercise? Learn a foreign language? Paint beautiful pictures?  You can achieve your desires, poco a poco while you are enjoying life. Just be sure to stick with the dream.

Ask Yourself

Is there an old dream I want to dust off and begin to work on again?

Is there a way to split that goal into smaller increments?


Hear Oh Israel

I am reading the chapter on Judaism in Huston Smith’s The World Religions. As I read about this tenacious, idealist, and compassionate people’s history and beliefs, I begin to cry. My heart is open and I remember my beginning days of sobriety, when I searched for personal meaning by attempting to convert to Judaism. I realize I still love the God of the Jews with all my heart.

Despite the fact that I studied with a Reform Rabbi for two years, I never converted to Judaism. I was looking for the mystical core of the teaching that I found in the ancient stories. My Rabbi couldn’t separate history from his lectures on religion. I realize now that he was right.

Eventually, I left Judaism and returned to Religious Science even though it meant rearranging my whole life to study with a New Thought teacher in NYC. I’ve never been sorry I studied Judaism and I’m certainly not sorry I studied New Thought.

There were several reasons why I never converted but none were based on religious objections. The Friday night services and the Rabbi’s lectures were not all that different from the ones I heard during  my years as a Unitarian. I wanted a spiritual experience that I didn’t find there.

The Temple social life was based on family and I was a middle aged widow. Their social conventions were not mine. Although everyone was very nice, it was clear that I would never fit in.

More importantly, the Judaism I sought was not in that Temple.  It was in my romantic imagination and in the books of writers such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, who once said he “wrote for ghosts” and social historians and philosophers such as Martin Buber.

During that period of my life, I read extensively – mostly about the religious fervor of the Middle European ecstatic tradition. I learned a lot about false messiahs, the Kabbalah, Zionism, the great Bal Shem Tov and other zaddicks.

I do not regret my studies of Judaism and I still believe in their early monotheism and moral teachings. The Jews are a great and amazing event in world history.

Whether I converted not, I feel more affinity for Judaism than any other spiritual teaching except New Thought. Most of my colleagues are more influenced by Christianity or Buddhism. If they think of Judaism, they are apt to think of it as an early beginning to our Judeo-Christian tradition. I have a heart connection to Judaism.

The Jews were the first of the existing religions to say that there was only One God. They were the first to extend ethical laws beyond their own tribe. They were the first to base their laws on a Universal God who created the world and found it good.

Huston Smith says the greatest accomplishment of the ancient Jews is their insistence on searching for meaning. That makes sense to me. It was the search for meaning that drew me to their religion five thousand years later.

Smith also says that their belief in the One God colored their whole religious philosophy. He says, “..the supreme achievement of Jewish thought – not in its monotheism as such, but in the character it ascribed the God it intuited as One. “ Then he goes on to describe that character. “God is a God of righteousness, whose loving kindness is from everlasting to everlasting and whose tender mercies are in all his works.”

Many people would say that the greatest accomplishment of the Jews is the fact that they were an obscure tribe of Middle Eastern nomads and they have survived for over 5000 years. While their beliefs have evolved and been extended, they have also been constant. They built their faith on monotheism – Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

I am now at the place where I find Truth embedded in all the major religions. I never say this one is better than that one. Every Sunday, we begin our services by lighting a candle in celebration of each of the world’s major religions. That said, the Jews share a lot of ideas that are also found in New Thought. Their description of God is pretty close to ours. They say God is a God of righteousness and mercy. We say God is a God of Law and Love.

Unlike many who come from a Christian tradition I never bought the simplistic idea that the Old Testament is “law” and the New Testament is “love”. I find plenty of love in laws that protect the widows and orphans of this world. Smith says there are 613 commandments regulating the social behavior of humans. Of course, they are based on the Ten Commandments and those are based on the belief that God is good and Life is good.

The goodness of all life is central to Judaism. Their beliefs are not based on denial of the physical body or detachment from life on this earthly plane. Nor do they deny the pleasures of the earth for delayed heaven. Their laws are intended to promote living together in harmony and goodness here and now.

Perhaps more than any other distinctly Western concept, the idea of progress is dearest to my heart. The Jews were the underdogs of history, Smith says. “Underdogs have only one direction to look, and it was the upward tilt of the Jewish imagination that eventually led the West to conclude that the conditions of life as a whole might improve.”

Yes – I am deeply moved by the ideas in this wisdom teaching. As I wiped away my tears, I realized that I attached myself to Judaism 37 years ago, immediately after my sobriety began, because I needed to believe in meaning and hope. I needed to believe that God is good, Life is good, conditions improve and there is always hope.

I needed that outlook of hope and progress in my personal life just the way the American slaves needed it in their bondage. The Afro-American spirituals tell the story. Whether it was, There’s a Great Day Coming! Or Go Down Moses – Let My People Go, they were deeply attached to Old Testament stories.

I am a Religious Science teacher now and I have incorporated the beliefs of many religious traditions into my life.  I see the belief in One God, karma ( law of cause and effect), the possibility of redemption, God in nature and other tenets of the major faiths as New Thought ideas now. I believe life is good and my conviction that life has meaning is very strong.

I believe in progress and improving our loving connection to others. My life is committed to teaching that there is only One God and that God is Love. I teach that we are all connected to God and to each other. I teach it is possible to live together in peace, plenty and harmony.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, I have a dream, and my dream is that we can all embrace those basic concepts of Allness, Goodness and Progress now.

Ask Yourself

Do I believe in the goodness of life?

Do I celebrate the wisdom of all religious traditions?